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New approach to heading off mass school shootings is worth trying

memorials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas
REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Visitors viewing memorials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 24, 2018.

The following is an editorial by The Mankato Free Press.

Unfortunately, the body of research keeps growing along with the body count. A database of 160 mass school shootings in the U.S. since 1966 gives those studying school shootings plenty of information to examine and form a new approach to handling school violence.

A method that focuses less on what to do in case of a school shooting and more on how to help prevent one was introduced to some educators and law enforcement recently in St. Paul. This big-picture way of thinking that zeroes in on prevention and less on reaction is worthy of serious consideration for every school. Telling instructors to arm themselves and students to hide or run falls far short of tackling the problem of mass shootings.

A Minnesota Public Radio News report outlined how a Hamline University criminology professor and a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University developed an approach that focuses on crisis intervention, de-escalation and suicide prevention. The idea is straightforward: Instead of just focusing on beefing up security or perfecting evacuation techniques, they suggest making a plan to provide students with mental health aid.

Of course, schools already provide some of that help, but many are short on counselors and other mental health experts. The researchers point to creating more of an environment of mutual trust and respect throughout every school. It’s a huge task, but one of the benefits is that this cultural shift would also be preventing low-level violence, such as bullying and fights.


Schools have spent lots of money on improving building security, and those are worthwhile measures. Every school visitor should be screened before gaining access to students and staff. But expanding measures that would shape a school environment where those in crisis are identified and efficiently are offered help is key. In Blue Earth County, the Yellow Line Project is successfully helping people with mental health or chemical issues get help before problems escalate and they end up in court or jail.

The recently introduced school safety program is a pilot project, but the introductory session was instantly filled, making clear that people are eager for better ways to protect our students. Here’s hoping that this program is successful and can be implemented statewide and beyond.

Republished with permission.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/06/2019 - 01:15 pm.

    Another repetition of the mental health/gun violence boojum.
    There are many developed countries with similar demographics including mental health problem incidence similar to ours. None of them has more than a tenth of our rate of gun deaths. The difference, none of them have more than a tenth of our incidence of gun possession.
    The real solution should be obvious.

  2. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 08/06/2019 - 01:16 pm.

    This is not a “new approach” to head off mass school shootings. It is more dodging and weaving by a newspaper too cowed by its conservative readership to face the issue head on. There are far too many assault style weapons and the high powered ammunition developed for military use in the hands of people who may be “law abiding” owners of these weapons today, but are potentially lethal mass murderers tomorrow.

    Supporting suicide prevention and crisis intervention programs are well and good but are not a credible substitute for restricting ownership and access to the weapons responsible for the mass killings.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/06/2019 - 07:01 pm.

      Note: The Mankato Free Press has been owned by Ottaway Newspapers Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Jones & Company since 1979.
      I suspect that advertisers have more effect on its content than readers.

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